What is Plyometric Training?
Plyometric training utilizes quick, powerful movements to enable the muscles to produce the greatest force possible within the shortest period of time. It is based upon theory and research proving that muscles have the ability to create greater tension when a rapid stretching phase is followed by a fast contraction, referred to as the “stretch-shortening cycle.”
Training the body’s nervous system through focused dynamic exercise conditions it to react to the lengthening of the muscle by rapidly contracting with maximum force. This is achieved through various jumping and bounding movements.
Why is Plyometric Training Important for Cyclists?
While the importance of plyometric training may be obvious for athletes engaging in jumping sports like basketball and volleyball, the benefits are less clear for cyclists whose feet never touch the ground. It can’t be denied, however, that lower body strength is primary to cycling performance. Research shows that the performance improvement potential of plyometric training for cyclists may be significant and difficult to ignore.
In a recent New Zealand study, well-trained cyclists were subjected to a plyometric training program consisting of single-leg jumps alternated with high-resistance cycling sprints. After 12 sessions the cyclists exhibited average gains of 8.1% in 1 km power, 6.8% in peak power, and 3.7% in lactate threshold power, all with 3% reduction in total oxygen cost.
The authors of the study attributed the gains to improvements in exercise efficiency and lactate threshold, the result of improvements in neuromuscular efficiency, or a faster stretch-shortening cycle. If well-trained athletes realized such improvements, imagine the potential for amateur cyclists?
Source: Paton, C.D., and W.G. Hopkins. “Combining explosive and high-resistance training improves performance in competitive cyclists.” Journal of strength and conditioning research. Nov. 2005, 19(4): 826-830.
Plyometric Training Performance Tips
- Don’t initiate a plyometric training program before first building a strength base and conditioning your muscles, tendons, and joints through at least 6 to 8 weeks of resistance training.
- Perform a thorough warm up and muscle activation prior to initiation of plyometric exercise.
- Do not perform plyometric exercise on fatigued muscles or following a demanding ride or run.
- Limit plyometric training to 2 times a week and begin with 50-60 jumps per session (increasing to tolerance) to avoid injury.
- Maximize jump height or distance with every repetition and minimize the amount of time spent contacting the ground between each.
- Apply maximal effort to each repetition, and perform as quickly and powerfully as possible.
- Learn, practice, and focus upon correct form and terminate your set or training session before it deteriorates.
Zwift Insider Plyometric Training Program
The Follow-Up Appointment
Stay tuned, as in the next edition of this series I will introduce proper posture and body mechanics off-the-bike and explain why it is essential to on-bike performance and enjoyment.
Have you ever considered adding plyometric training to your cycling strength building plan? If yes, what is your experience? If no, why? Your fellow Zwifters want to know!